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Better Cotton Usage Grows as BCI Advances Sustainability Goals

Better Cotton accounted for 14 percent of global cotton production at the end of 2017, a 2 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) 2017 annual report.

In the 2016-2017 cotton season, 1.3 million licensed BCI Farmers in 21 countries produced 3.3 million metric tons of Better Cotton lint, enabling a record level of more sustainably produced cotton to enter the global supply chain, the report noted.

BCI, which aims to transform cotton production worldwide by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity, said its goal is to train five million farmers worldwide on more sustainable agricultural practices and ensure that Better Cotton accounts for 30 percent of global cotton production by 2020.

In the 2016-17 season, cotton was produced to the Better Cotton Standard in Australia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, India, Israel, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Mozambique, Pakistan, South Africa, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, the U.S., Zambia and Zimbabwe. BCI’s retail and brand members doubled the uptake of Better Cotton, year-on-year, for the second straight year, according to the report.

BCI membership grew 21 percent to 1,197 members, with 17 new retailer and brand members and 193 new supplier and manufacturer members. A record 736,000 metric tons of Better Cotton was claimed by retailers and brands last year, a 60 percent increase from 2016, and spinners sourced 1.2 million metric tons in the same period.

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“Of everything we have achieved, we are delighted that in 2017 we completed the first comprehensive review of the Better Cotton Standard System, paving the way to further support BCI Farmers across the world in raising productivity in a sustainable way,” BCI CEO Alan McClay noted in the report.

McClay said the revised Principles and Criteria of the Standard, approved by the BCI Council in November, were the culmination of a “thorough and rigorous process, involving more than two years of stakeholder consultation.” The result, he said, “is an enhanced standard system that reflects the reality of social, economic and environmental challenges and best practices in cotton production today.”

The report cited significant changes to the Principles and Criteria (P&C), including crop protection, water stewardship, biodiversity and soil management and fiber contamination. BCI reinforced its approach to crop protection with increased restrictions on the use of hazardous pesticides, while the approach to health and safety now include a stricter requirement on minimum personal protective equipment.

BCI has broadened the scope of its water principle, taking a water management approach that encourages collective action toward sustainable use of water at a local level. The P&C now requires creating a biodiversity management plan that includes the identification and mapping of biodiversity resources. It also offers a more focused position on gender equality in closed alignment with the International Labor Organization’s Decent Work agenda. This includes improved guidance in areas such as child labor, sanitation facilities and gender equality of payment.

“BCI Farmers are on a journey toward more sustainable cotton production and BCI provides them with an actionable framework to do so,” the report noted. “Each element of the Better Cotton Standard System works together to ensure the exchange of good practices, encouraging the scaling up of collective action to establish Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity.”